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Writing 101

Spoilers Below

Don't read this if you haven't yet watched the season finales of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and/ or LIFE ON MARS. I've finally seen both (we are TIVO junkies, so we don't always watch shows the night they air), and... well...

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ends with "God Did It." Looks like somebody skipped Writing 101, when you learn that a deus ex machina is a crappy way to end a story.

And now LIFE ON MARS ends with "It Was All a Dream." Curiously, I actually found that a bit more satisfying than the end of BSG. But still... really??? C'mon. Writing 101.

Oh, and while I'm at it, let me spoil the new Nicholas Cage movie, KNOWING. I actually enjoyed that one, mostly, although everyone else I know who has seen it hated it. But the ending... this time it was space angels who did it. And when the little kids starting running through the alien grass toward the glowing alien tree, I almost thought the boy was going to say, "My dad used to call me Caleb, but my real name is Adam," and then the little girl would say... oh, wait, you've seen it?

Yeah, yeah, sometimes the journey is its own reward. I certainly enjoyed much of the journey with BSG, parts of LIFE ON MARS, and even some stuff in KNOWING. But damn it, doesn't anybody know how to write an ending any more?

Writing 101, kids. Adam and Eve, God Did It, It Was All a Dream? I've seen Clarion students left stunned and bleeding for turning in stories with those endings.


(I sure hope those guys doing LOST have something better up planned for us. Though if it turns out to be They Were All Dead All Along I'm really going to be pissed).


Apr. 5th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
I have to disagree a little here. The ending to BSG is not an example of deus ex machine. Far from it, actually.

While I do totally understand why people would've been disappointed by the BSG finale, from what people are saying, you'd think the idea that "God" - or whatever "it" was that was manipulating events - came out of nowhere just for this last episode, which is certainly not the case.

Like it or hate it, BSG had been building towards this ending for a long time. "Head Six" called herself an "angel of God" years ago. Both humans and Cylons happening to be in a star system at the exact moment it went supernova was long-discussed as very much being an "act of God" or a "miracle".

What I love about the ending is that "God" can be whatever you want it to be. It can be God as described in Christian mythology, it can be some personification of the universe itself, or it could even be an extraordinarily advanced alien race whose abilities appear "God-like" - sort of the reimagined versions of the Beings of Light from the original series.

One can certainly argue that they didn't like for BSG to go in this direction, but I believe it's somewhat disenginuis to have been at-all surprised by the "God did it" tone of the finale. At this point, it was, in many ways, the only logical answer. What other answer could there be for:

1. The previously mentioned Nova incident
2. How Starbuck - and even more importantly a DIRECT COPY of her ship - come back unscathed
3. The Head-Six and Head-Baltar characters
4. Hera knowing the things she knows
5. Starbuck knowing the things she knows
6. Human and Cylon characters sharing the same visions of the future


"Deus ex machina" to me has always implied something previously un-mentioned that shows up at the end of the day to save everyone, and I don't think you can claim the "God did it" answer to many of the big BSG questions came out of nowhere. The entire second-half of the series we were essentially being told "God is doing it." People may've held off hope that it was somethng else - something more "plausible" or "real" - but it certainly did not come out of nowhere.

There really is no solid "aliens did it" sort of answer that could've tied all these loose ends together and done so without ACTUALLY being a deus ex machina. If anyone can think of one, please let me know, because you have a far more creative mind than I do.
Apr. 6th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Ditto. It's not Deus Ex Machina when the entire program is predicated upon direct involvement of a divine force from day 1.
Apr. 6th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
Someone's been paying attention.

The problem for many folks is that they confuse the show's use of the word god or gods. I suggest studying up on Hinduism and its offspring Buddhism.

I too was disappointed in the ending, but for practical reasons.
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
It's not DEM, but it is lazy storytelling. Even when the faith, religious elements had been been front and centre in storylines in S1 and S2, it was still up to the characters to find their own way to salvation and freedom. The New Caprica arc is a perfect example of our heroes having to find their own way out of a problem rather than relying on God/Mystical Space Alien to do it for them.

The series finale is not inconsistent with the spiritual side of the story as presented from day one, it's simply inconsistent with the manner of storytelling and resolution they have been pursuing for that time. I was actually struck by Starbuck reminding me of a 'GM campaign-insertion character' from a roleplaying game, where the GM gets so pissed off with the other players not getting on with the story he inserts his own Gary Stu character to get them back on track. It's a bad move there (unless expertly handled with a very light touch) and it was a bad move here.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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